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Compliments of the Drug War

It is clichéd to make the point that we all remember where we were when major world events transpired, but a lot of people do not realise why that is. Everyone remembers the attacks of 11 September 2001, because they were such an emotional time. We remember things vividly when those events stimulate our emotions, and now I want to describe a very emotional event from my own life, the death of my friend Neal's father. My mother and her husband had bought a new house, and so I was out in the yard trying to remove the last vestiges of an old cattle fence. It was three layers deep in places and very difficult to dismantle. As I was digging a hole to remove a post that was very firmly set in the ground, my mother came outside and told me that Neal's father had been shot dead while in Colombia. That was very shocking news, because it sounded like something that would happen in a war zone. I knew that his father had been in Colombia for some time spraying coca plants with defoliant, but I never knew it was overly dangerous. My guess was that the various government agencies that sponsored and ran the operation provided adequate security, but I was badly mistaken in my assumption. In this instance, the war on drugs really was a war, and my friend's father was the latest senseless casualty in an effort doomed to abysmal failure before it even began. My reaction to the news was what any caring human being would have done. I started to cry as soon as I heard, because I knew what it meant to me. Gary was a very good fellow, and I enjoyed being around him when I had the chance. But he was Neal's world in a lot of ways, and I do not think he has ever been the same without his father. Neal was forever repeating a joke his father had made, and I remember that a few times when I went to spend the night over at their house that there was a joke Gary made each time. When I would go over there, I would just put my clothes and toiletries in a black garbage bag, because it was easy and quick. Neal's dad would tease me every time that I had brought my garbage. The even funnier part of the story was that later he told my mother he could understand why I just threw my things in a garbage bag, because it is a real hassle to actually pack and unpack things in a suitcase. This was after he had already started his frequent trips to Colombia to what I now know was a deadly war zone. With as tragic and meaningless as Gary's death was, the funeral was what I would best describe as a parody of good taste. There was a Drug Enforcement Agency representative there who told us what a great job Gary had done and how important the drug war was. No one was comfortable at the gathering, because it was a totally senseless death he died. There was no amount of talking anyone could do that would make it even an infinitesimal bit better. And there was an uncomfortable DEA agent telling us how meaningful the death had been, but it was obvious that even he thought what he was saying was far less than adequate. Had the death been a meaningful one, everyone would have already known, and no DEA agent would have had to tell us. Even if I did not think the drug war were as meaningless and misguided as alcohol prohibition, I would hate it simply for taking Gary away from us. But the obvious and bold truth is that drug addiction is a medical problem that is only ever going to be solved by medical means. It seems pretty evident that the three percent of the population most credible sources cite as being habitual drug addicts are the same people whom those same sources list as perpetually mentally ill. Also, does anybody really want to trade peace, prosperity and the rule of law for the type of corruption Chicago saw during the 1920's because of alcohol prohibition? That kind of corruption already exists in many border towns where people smuggle drugs into the country, and it furthermore exists in almost every other place in the United States where drugs are further distributed and consumed. When a person is desperate for money, power or just the essentials of life, it makes sense to sell drugs. The mark up on those illicit substances is in the thousands of percentage points many times, so selling drugs beats starving to death. Decriminalise drug use, and the benefits to society are an immediate drop in violence and crime. Drug abuse is tantamount to mental illness, and it is not communicable. The drug czar may tell you that we are all drug addicts waiting to happen, but it is simply not so. If you are not a heroin addict today, the chances are that you will never be one, even if some government agency in Maryland or Washington state provides European-style heroin maintenance.
Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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